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Will Georgia play the spoiler for Democrats?

State unlikely to aid in U.S. House majority swap

George Bush. Iraq. The bombshell resignation of Rep. Mark "Instant Message" Foley of Florida.

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For the first time since 1994, Democrats can sniff the tantalizing scent of a U.S. House of Representatives majority.

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Except in Georgia.

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Democrats nationwide need 15 more seats to gain control of the House. And prognosticators across the country say somewhere around 25 current Republican seats are in play.

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But a national wave for Democrats could encounter a strong Republican undertow in Georgia. Consider this: All of Georgia's seven Republican congressmen are considered safe bets for re-election, while Rep. John Barrow of Savannah and Rep. Jim Marshall of Macon are among only four Democratic nominees nationally whose re-elections are in jeopardy, according to the Washington-based Rothenberg Report.

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Barrow has assembled a moderate voting record in Congress. Marshall is among the House's most conservative Democrats. Both voted last month in favor of a 700-mile fence along the Mexican border as part of a get-tough bill against illegal immigrants.

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No matter. Their GOP opponents are hammering both on the immigration issue. In a bid to win back his seat in east Georgia's 12th District, Republican Max Burns is bludgeoning Barrow over a single newspaper quote in which Barrow spoke of the need to "assimilate" illegal immigrants.

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And in Middle Georgia's 3rd District, Mac Collins, another former GOP congressman, is depicting Marshall as a Spanish-language freak. He points to Marshall's vote in June to allow Spanish-language ballots in areas with large Spanish-speaking populations. In a campaign ad, Collins highlights the vote, then salutes Marshall with a tagline: "Muchas gracías, Señor Jim Marshall."

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The two downstate Democrats remain favored to win re-election. But it may not help them that Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mark Taylor is lagging up to 20 points behind Republican incumbent Sonny Perdue in opinion polls.



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